Second Contact, Part III

Epis­ode Num­ber: 4×06

Writ­ten by: The authors of the Shack­leton Expanse Cam­paign Guide

Dir­ec­ted by: Jon Crew

Trans­mis­sion: 20th April 2024

Guest Stars:

  • Iry­ax Nedaon: Lead­er of the Akaru.
  • Com­mand­er Mauti: Akaru com­mand­ing officer of the Star­ward.
  • Akaru’Bak Chiel: Akaru pro­vin­cial governor.
  • Com­mand­er K’rigosh: Akul’s first officer aboard the Mup­wI’.
  • Lieu­ten­ant Rusk­erg: Tac­tic­al chief aboard the Mup­wI’, pos­sess­ing an air of Vul­can-like calm.

While I am find­ing my dip­lo­mat­ic skills are being tested in a three-way nego­ti­ation with the Iry­ax and Cap­tain Akul, Lieu­ten­ant Com­mand­er Zepht and his team are mak­ing some intriguing dis­cov­er­ies beneath the seas of Setu.

Cap­tain’s Log: Stard­ate, 50149.2

Plot: Cap­tain Kon­in con­tin­ues his treaty nego­ti­ations with the Akaru. Zeph­t’s away mis­sion takes a turn towards the macabre as the land­ing party dis­cov­ers the ori­gin of the tele­path­ic dis­tress calls and uncov­ers a major secret.

The ‘A’ Plot: In the Iry­ax’s throne room on Setu, Cap­tains Kon­in and Akul com­pete to get the best deal with the Akaru.

Kon­in’s offer centres around the Fed­er­a­tion’s vast body of sci­entif­ic and med­ic­al know­ledge, diverse cul­tures, and the many oppor­tun­it­ies to train at its academies and uni­ver­sit­ies, includ­ing the exchange pro­gram with Star­fleet itself. Chiel’s com­pan­ion at the Akaru’Bak table seems par­tic­u­larly impressed by this, lead­ing to an extens­ive tele­path­ic dis­cus­sion between the pair of them and the Iryax.

Akul, in con­trast, offers defens­ive weapons and con­sult­ants to train the Akaru in oper­at­ing them, emphas­ising that this would help defend them from Expanse dangers such as the Kin­shaya. Kon­in advises that, while this is a genu­ine offer from the Klin­gons, it would likely lead to the Akaru being dragged into future con­flicts between the Klin­gons and their enemies. While the Fed­er­a­tion would offer little in the way of mil­it­ary mater­i­el, it would guar­an­tee to help defend the Akaru if they were attacked. Chiel com­ments that the Akaru would not want to be depend­ent on anoth­er power for their defence.

Even­tu­ally, after sev­er­al hours of fruit­less dis­cus­sion, Kon­in pro­poses that there should be an agree­ment between all three groups that the Akaru should be con­sidered a neut­ral power. They would not be involved in any con­flict between the Empire and the Fed­er­a­tion, and could provide neut­ral ground for trade, nego­ti­ations and dis­pute resolution.

Once again, the Akaru’Bak and Nedaon silently debate the sug­ges­tion, but Akul is evid­ently becom­ing impa­tient. He slams his fist on the table in frus­tra­tion, demand­ing that a decision be made imme­di­ately. Chiel con­sults briefly with the Iry­ax and her col­league, then announces that the Coun­cil will con­fer in private. Both rep­res­ent­at­ives are free to return to their quar­ters and par­take of the Akaru’s hos­pit­al­ity in the meantime.

Kon­in uses the oppor­tun­ity to catch up on the status of the Lex­ing­ton, as he has been incom­mu­nic­ado dur­ing the talks. He reads Zeph­t’s reports with grow­ing con­cern and decides that they require his per­son­al attention.

The ‘B’ Plot: The away team is hav­ing little luck try­ing to com­mu­nic­ate with the trapped Romu­lan. Zepht turns his atten­tion to the com­puter sys­tems, but the mix of Tilikaal, Akaru, Romu­lan and Vul­can codes is too much even for him. It is fairly clear that extric­at­ing the Romu­lan from the machinery will not be a trivi­al task, and that there is no guar­an­tee he would sur­vive the pro­cess, so they ask Dr Con­ners to bring a team down to assess the situation.

Raynor sets up the pat­tern enhan­cers he brought, and Quinn takes the aquashuttle back to Lex­ing­ton. Attempt­ing to reverse his freefall man­oeuvre by reach­ing orbit­al velo­city as soon as pos­sible after leav­ing the water, he under­es­tim­ates the amount of thrust he needs to reach orbit, which res­ults in him being detec­ted by Akaru radar. As the med­ic­al team mater­i­al­ises, the rest of the away team begins to check the six pas­sage­ways lead­ing away from this cent­ral part of the struc­ture. Sev­er­al appear to be col­lapsed, or full of water or leth­al gases, but two are access­ible and can sup­port life.

Pick­ing a door­way, Raynor leads the team into a leak­ing, but oth­er­wise sturdy, pas­sage­way. The floor is covered in silt, with the same met­al grills laid down to facil­it­ate move­ment. The lights come on in stages as they approach, with most of them work­ing prop­erly. There’s a moment of ten­sion as an archa­ic Akaru drone approaches them from the far end, but it largely ignores them as it pro­ceeds to the cent­ral structure.

At the pas­sage’s far end, they find anoth­er sev­en-sided build­ing, with an out­er cor­ridor encirc­ling sev­en rooms, each shaped like a trun­cated wedge. Each room con­tains a large, buzz­ing coil of an uniden­ti­fi­able met­al, occa­sion­ally gen­er­at­ing elec­tric­al dis­charges, attached to what appears to be an old-style Akaru com­puter ter­min­al. The coils them­selves appear to be of Tilikaal design, and Azon­an real­ises that these are shield gen­er­at­ors, of a very unusu­al design, and are likely to be gen­er­at­ing the force field cov­er­ing the whole com­plex. It appears that one of the coils is faulty, trig­ger­ing a debate about wheth­er they should attempt to reverse engin­eer and repair it. They put the decision off until a later point.

Back in the cent­ral com­puter room, they find that Con­ners has determ­ined that the Romu­lan’s brain has been wired into the com­puter net­work as a neur­al con­trol sys­tem. He is not as old as he looks, but his body is ema­ci­ated and sev­er­al organs have atrophied to the point of non-func­tion­al­ity. While it would be pos­sible to remove him, he would require extens­ive sur­gery and replace­ment organs, in order to sur­vive without life sup­port sys­tems, pri­or to a long peri­od of rehab­il­it­a­tion. The sys­tems here would also begin to fail.

Fol­low­ing the oth­er intact tun­nel, the away team finds anoth­er sev­en-sided struc­ture con­tain­ing a single large cham­ber. Six fully-enclosed chairs sur­round a horse­shoe-shaped con­sole, and four of them are occu­pied. Tri­cord­ers show they are two Vul­cans and two Romu­lans, in much the same con­di­tion as the one wired into the com­puter, and they appear to be fully aware of the vis­it­ors. At the centre of the room is a struc­ture resem­bling a med­ic­al biobed, attached to a lot of unusu­al equipment.

Raynor exam­ines the six identic­al Tilikaal machines moun­ted against the walls, each of which frames a large glass tube. Five of the tubes are filled with murky flu­id obscur­ing a float­ing three metre tall fig­ure, the last is broken and empty. It does­n’t take him long to real­ise the fig­ures in the tubes are Assessors, like the Iry­ax, and when Con­ners later gets a chance to com­pare the data, she con­cludes they are clones of the Akaru ruler.

Zepht attempts to talk to the occu­pants of the chairs, but they don’t seem to have retained the cap­ab­il­ity to respond aud­ibly, so he exam­ines the con­soles to see if he can com­mu­nic­ate with them that way. This time he is suc­cess­ful, and dis­cov­ers that they are also des­per­ate for help: they “want to rest”. From the sub­sequent con­ver­sa­tion, he dis­cov­ers that they are sur­viv­ors of a group of Romu­lan and Vul­can Uni­fic­a­tion­ist refugees, who were try­ing to estab­lish a new colony. Their ship crashed on the plan­et, and they woke up wired into the sys­tem. Con­ners estim­ates they have been there for about four decades.

Zepht decides that he needs input from fur­ther up the chain and sends Raynor to report back to the Lexin­gon.

On his own return to the ship, the cap­tain con­sults with Raynor, who relates the appar­ent con­nec­tion to the Uni­fic­a­tion­ist move­ment. Kon­in had thought the Uni­fic­a­tion­ists were a recent devel­op­ment, but soon dis­cov­ers that the group goes back nearly a cen­tury. He tasks Mas­ter Chief Boone with identi­fy­ing poten­tial matches to the DNA scans col­lec­ted by Con­ners, in the hopes of con­firm­ing their story, but Boone warns that it is unlikely they would have those records on the ship. Get­ting matches from the cent­ral Fed­er­a­tion med­ic­al data­bases would take weeks.

Giv­en the Vul­canoids’ story and the oth­er evid­ence, Kon­in decides that he needs to con­sult with Chiel. Invit­ing her aboard the ship, he explains that his team have found a hid­den under­wa­ter facil­ity while search­ing for the source of the tele­path­ic dis­tress calls. As he describes what they found and that the Fed­er­a­tion would find their appar­ent slavery unac­cept­able, Chiel becomes more and more dis­tressed. How­ever, he real­ises that this is all a com­plete suprise to her.

Sud­denly, Kon­in is no longer talk­ing to Chiel, as the Iry­ax takes con­trol of her body to respond dir­ectly to him. Now that their secret has been dis­covered, they explain that they are the latest in a long line of clones, who have shep­her­ded the Akaru for mil­len­nia, main­tain­ing the peace and guid­ing their development.

The under­wa­ter facil­ity holds the clon­ing machinery, but the Tilikaal arti­fi­cial intel­li­gences that main­tained and con­trolled it failed mil­len­nia ago. Since then, this role has been ful­filled by Akaru volun­teer­ing to “sac­ri­fice” their lives to the Iry­ax, and being integ­rated into the sys­tems. At their cur­rent stage of devel­op­ment, the Akaru no longer accept sac­ri­fice as a reli­gious sac­ra­ment, so the crash of the Uni­fic­a­tion­ist refugees was timely. The mor­tally-injured sur­viv­ors saw integ­rat­ing into the machinery as both a way to sur­vive and to help the being who helped them. Unfor­tu­nately, they were not com­pat­ible with the Tilikaal tech­no­logy and now want their free­dom. Nedaon wishes to grant their desire, but does not have access to suit­able med­ic­al technology.

Addi­tion­ally, they note that in recent years it has become clear that the clon­ing pro­cess has reached its lim­it. Each clone has more health issues and a short­er lifespan than their pre­de­cessor, and in anoth­er four or five gen­er­a­tions, no clone will be viable. To this end, they have accel­er­ated the Akaru’s devel­op­ment, and are try­ing to find a way to ensure their safety once the Iry­ax is gone.

Nedaon states that they had already decided to accept Kon­in’s offer, but will add the con­di­tion that they provide the neces­sary assist­ance to res­cue the Uni­fic­a­tion­ists, while ensur­ing the clones last long enough to ensure the Akaru’s sur­viv­al. To that end, they are most inter­ested in med­ic­al and oth­er sci­entif­ic know­ledge. Kon­in points out that he would nev­er have used this dis­cov­ery to demand the Iry­ax’s agree­ment, but they wave that off as irrelevant.

The Iry­ax leaves, return­ing con­trol of Chiel’s body to her own con­scious­ness, cre­at­ing the poten­tial prob­lem of how she will deal with what she’s just heard. It rap­idly becomes clear, how­ever, that she has no memory of either the Iry­ax’s pres­ence or the con­ver­sa­tion lead­ing up to it. As she believes she has only just arrived, Kon­in is forced to find a reas­on he summoned her, bring­ing up Com­mand­er Mauti’s reports of her stay in Fed­er­a­tion space, but then Raynor steps in to com­ment that the “Cap­tain’s time is lim­ited” and escort her off ship. Unfor­tu­nately, he is a bit brusque and she slaps him as she enters the trans­port­er room.

At a sub­sequent brief­ing, Kon­in announces that they will be stay­ing for a few weeks to assist with free­ing the sur­viv­ors and repair­ing the facil­ity’s machinery. Raynor reports that the Mup­wI’ depar­ted the sys­tem sev­er­al hours earlier.

The Arc: The Iry­ax’s con­nec­tion to the Tilikaal is revealed, des­pite which the alli­ance between the Akaru and the Fed­er­a­tion is achieved.

Obser­va­tions: Nedaon is a clone, but this is hid­den from the Akaru, includ­ing the Akaru’Bak. The clon­ing facil­ity is of Tilikaal ori­gin, but the con­trolling artific­al intel­li­gences failed mil­len­nia ago. The Iry­ax has been rely­ing on Akaru sac­ri­fi­cial volun­teers to reg­u­late the sys­tems, but the evolving Akaru soci­ety has made such sac­ri­fices unacceptable.

Rep­lic­a­tion errors occur­ring in the clon­ing pro­cess mean that the Iry­ax’s clones are becom­ing less viable with each gen­er­a­tion. They have less than two cen­tur­ies before the Akaru will need to sur­vive without their guidance.

The Uni­fic­a­tion­ist move­ment has been in exist­ence for over a cen­tury, since the Vul­can con­nec­tion to the Romu­lans was revealed. While the bulk of its mem­bers are work­ing for a dip­lo­mat­ic and social uni­on, to the dis­ap­prov­al of both gov­ern­ments, some indi­vidu­als become dis­il­lu­sioned with the pro­cess and try to defect to the oth­er soci­ety. Oth­ers escape to form their own uni­fied soci­et­ies in out of the way places; one such group fled to the Expanse around forty years ago and crashed on Setu. The mor­tally-injured sur­viv­ors volun­teered to run the Iry­ax’s facil­ity, reas­on­ing that their futures were less import­ant than the sur­viv­al of the Akaru people and culutre.

The word Kin­shaya used by Akul is rendered by the uni­ver­sal trans­lat­or as “demons”, but the Klin­gon appears to be refer­ring to some­thing much more physical.

Ref­er­ences: The Uni­fic­a­tion move­ment was first intro­duced in the form of the Romu­lan Under­ground Move­ment in the Star Trek: the Next Gen­er­a­tion two-part story “Uni­fic­a­tion”.